Tip #1 — Steal Off Of the Pitcher’s Motion
So, to start off our list of tips for stealing bases, one often-overlooked tip is to steal off the pitcher. By this we mean you should be moving before the catcher catches the ball. Once you get a feel for the pitcher’s delivery, you should be able to time things just right for a major jump on the base paths. Ideally, you want to watch them long enough to know they are actually delivering the ball and then you go! Especially keep an eye on those leftys, they can be tricky!
The thing that separates the best from the average is picking up on movements and habits. After observing the pitcher with a runner on base once or twice you should have an idea of when they are going to release the ball. This can give you a significant advantage, so try to focus on the pitchers. Most of them will have what we call “tells”. These tells can help you get that unbeatable jump. We included a picture below to show an example of what key you can look for.
Tip #2 — Find the Pitcher’s Rhythm and Use it Against Him
Similar to our first tip, for this one you have to watch the pitcher, but for this one, it’s more about their rhythm. Some pitchers have a tendency to quickly pitch and others have a tendency to pitch slowly, and deliberately. Generally speaking either is fine, but the key here is to learn which is typical for the pitcher you are facing. Once you know, either way, this will give you an opportunity to predict his delivery, which could give you a nice jump.
Tip #3 — Read the Catcher for the Upcoming Pitch
This one goes out to all the Houston Astro fans out there! We’re just kidding, but maybe they were actually on to something. Did you know that reading the catcher before the pitch can give you some really valuable information?
Unlike the pitcher, by looking at the catcher you might be able to pick out which pitch is coming. Not only is it possible to pick up on certain pitch/hang signals, but you can also get an idea of what pitch is coming by looking at how they are set up. Some catchers will cheat a little lower if they think a breaking ball is coming.
Knowing either will dramatically help the runner. If the runner knows a breaking pitch is coming they might be more likely to steal because of the change of speed, and also the ability of the catcher to handle the ball. We’ll get more into that in our next tip.
Tip #4 — Know the Count and be Aware of Pitch Selection
This is one of our best tips for stealing bases – Off-speed pitches (curveballs, sliders, change-ups) are best and most effective when they are low in the zone which can lead to pitches occasionally bouncing in the dirt. This is an ideal time to swipe a bag.
Often times with two strikes the pitcher will intentionally bounce the pitch between home plate and the catcher in order to get a swing and miss from the hitter.
Because of the pitches, the location, and the fact they are more difficult to control, off-speed pitches will bounce more often than fastballs. Again, this is a great time to steal because the catcher might not be able to handle the balls in the dirt.
An off-speed count is when the pitcher has the advantage (0-2, 1-2) but still be aware in even counts (1-1, 2-2) pitchers might feel confident enough to waste a pitch.
All in all, being aware of these situations can lead to some freebies on the base path.
Tip #5 — Trust Your Jump
If you decide to go, then GO! Go as quickly as you can. Any hesitation will give the fielders a chance to throw you out. As long as you trust your instinct and followed our tips there’s a low chance that you will get thrown out. So trust yourself, don’t look back, and put these tips into practice.
Throughout our research for this post we came across this video – we thought it was pretty cool to learn some tips for stealing bases from former pro Kenny Lofton. Also, while you’re here be sure to check out our other posts here. He’s till next time!